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Perhaps the most amusing thing about “iSteve,” the biopic parody that debuted this week on Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die, is that it’s the first major full-length comedy designed for viewing on an iPhone, iPad or any Internet-ready iDevice.
That’s not a knock on the film, whose wildly uneven 78 minutes contain some funny moments generated more at the expense of the biopic genre (hackneyed lines like “It’s so crazy, it just might work,” cliché-filled flashbacks and a manufactured love triangle involving Bill and Melinda Gates) than at the expense of Apple mastermind Steve Jobs.
While it has even more flaws than the complicated computer titan it spoofs, “iSteve” represents a benchmark in the Net effect on humor – another sign that when it comes to comedy, the web is a powerful platform for a lot more than wacky cat videos and clips from TV shows.
“iSteve” arrives nearly five years after Joss Whedon’s “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog,” debuted on the Internet, clocking in at 42 minutes. The musical comedy mini-masterpiece became a fanboy and fangirl favorite, getting new life on DVD and eventually on TV. A sequel reportedly is in the works, though which medium it’s headed to first is unclear.
Louis C.K.’s latest gut-busting standup act appeared last weekend on HBO, less than two years after he made a mini-mint selling his previous (and even better) effort online for five bucks a pop.
Many of us will be spending much of Memorial Day weekend in front of computers or televisions watching the long-awaited (seven years!) return of cancelled Fox TV comedy “Arrested Development” on Netflix. The online comeback could be a prelude to a feature film.
It’s too early to tell whether “iSteve” will have a life beyond Funny or Die (will it make iTunes?). It’s also impossible to know what Jobs would have thought of the web movie, in which he’s portrayed by Justin Long, who played the cool personification of the Mac to John Hodgman’s stuffy PC in the fun Apple commercials from a few years back.
Even if he didn’t, as evidenced by Walter Isaacson’s great 2011 biography, “Steve Jobs,” sport a great sense of humor, the most influential man in black since Johnny Cash loved the spotlight. We suspect he’d appreciate Ferrell and Co.’s ability, as another old Apple ad campaign put it, to think different.
While we await “Jobs,” the presumably more sober movie take on the Apple boss’ life starring Ashton Kutcher, check out a web friendly clip from “iSteve”:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.